May 16th, 2013
11:52 AM ET

'You have given al Qaeda a golden ticket'

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On April 17, a U.S. drone strike killed an al Qaeda militant and four others in a remote village in Western Yemen. CNN’s Jessica Gutteridge talks to Farea Al-Muslimi, a former U.S. exchange student who grew up in the village.

“I grew up in Wessab, a remote the mountain in Yemen.  It's nine hours south away from the capital, a very deprived area where mostly farmers live there. It’s a place where there is no electricity, even today, not a single hospital, not a single school. It’s a very miserable area.

I lived here in high school with a host family, as an exchange student. The best year of my life – ever. It's beyond imagination. It was the richest year of my life, I think, in every sense – education-wise, knowledge-wise, friendship-wise, school-wise, because it's just like taking someone from the seventh century in a time machine to the 21st century. I became technically an ambassador for Americans for the rest of my life. The people, I think, are the best, the very best part about my year in America.

There was at the day of the strike, there was a plane hovering over the head of the village, though people didn't know that this plane was targeting someone or looking for someone. And it was…not a physical strike, but a heart and mind strike for the people.

FULL POST

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Topics: Terrorism • Yemen
A new chance to act on Guantanamo
May 9th, 2013
10:14 AM ET

A new chance to act on Guantanamo

By Letta Tayler, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Letta Tayler is a senior terrorism-counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch with an expertise in Yemen. You can follow her @lettatayler. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

The last time Amina al-Rabeii video conferenced from Yemen with her brother Salman, a detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, she barely recognized the skeletal man on the screen.

“His eyes were sunken into dark recesses,” al-Rabeii told me when we met recently in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. “He was slumped in his chair and he could barely keep his head up. He couldn’t concentrate and he didn’t seem to register what we said. We could hardly keep from crying.”

Salman al-Rabeii, 33, was reportedly picked up in Afghanistan in December 2001. He is among the scores of detainees participating in a three-month-old hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention without charge at Guantanamo. He also is among about 90 Yemenis at the prison – the largest bloc by nationality and the group at the heart of the current Guantanamo crisis.

FULL POST

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Topics: Human Rights • Terrorism • Yemen
December 21st, 2012
03:22 PM ET

Is Yemen’s power struggle over?

By Ibrahim Sharqieh, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Ibrahim Sharqieh is a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, and adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. The views expressed are the author’s own.

In a dramatic move this week, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi struck at some of the old regime centers of power that have persisted since the removal of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh’s influence has lived on through allies that retain command of key military and security units – in particular, his son Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Saleh, who heads the country’s Republican Guards, and his nephew Yehya Saleh, who leads the Central Security forces. But with a set of decrees reorganizing Yemen’s armed forces, Hadi moved to fold these units into a four-branch Yemeni army, with the president serving as commander-in-chief.

FULL POST

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Topics: Yemen
October 12th, 2012
10:56 AM ET

Lessons from the USS Cole incident

By Mitchell Silber, Special to CNN

Mitchell D. Silber is the author of ‘The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West,’ a former director of intelligence analysis at the New York City Police Department and an executive managing director at K2 Intelligence, a risk analytics consulting firm. The views expressed are his own.

Twelve years ago today, 17 Americans were killed in a deadly attack in the Middle East. Then, as now, the U.S. government struggled to define what had occurred and to determine who was responsible for the tragic loss of life. It, too, was an election year and both the attack itself and the lack of a forceful response left the administration exposed on foreign policy in what was a historically close election. A meaningful American response fell in between the cracks of a change of administrations and 11 months later, al-Qaeda conducted its catastrophic attacks of September 2001. This cannot happen again.

The success of the al-Qaeda operation against the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen in October of 2000 “galvanized-al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts” and the lack of a retaliatory American strike against al-Qaeda in its safe haven of Afghanistan motivated Osama bin Laden to “launch something bigger” according to the 9/11 Commission Report.

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Topics: Terrorism • United States • Yemen
Yemen’s Hadi: 'I'm a boss'
Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. (Getty Images)
April 16th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Yemen’s Hadi: 'I'm a boss'

Editor's Note: Daniel R. DePetris is the Senior Associate Editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis.

By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN

In one of the most far-reaching and dramatic decisions in the post-Ali Abdullah Saleh era, Yemen’s newly elected president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has ordered the dismissal of several high-ranking loyalists of the previous government.

A total of four governors and three military commanders - two of whom happen to be family members of Ali Abdullah Saleh himself - were asked to leave their posts by the former Vice President, who is attempting to steer Yemen on the path of a successful transition while at the same time protecting his young administration from internal sabotage.

Both of these tasks will be enormously difficult to carry out in full, but with a fresh popular mandate from the Yemeni people last February, President Hadi is using the support to his advantage. FULL POST

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Topics: Yemen
What al Qaeda's attack says about the state of Yemen’s army
Yemeni General Ali Salah, deputy chief of staff for military operations, visits soldiers in Yemen's restive Abayan province on March 6.
March 9th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

What al Qaeda's attack says about the state of Yemen’s army

Editor's Note: Daniel R. DePetris is the Senior Associate Editor of the Journal of Terrorism and Security Analysis.  He is currently a research intern with the American Enterprise Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy division.

By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN

Just two weeks into Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s young tenure as Yemen’s president, he is confronted with a serious string of military setbacks against the country’s active and ever-powerful al Qaeda affiliate in the southern desert.  The VP-turned-President was well aware of how difficult his new job would be, particularly against the terrorists who have been expanding their territorial control over the past year as the former government was trying to salvage its regime.  But even last Sunday’s attack was grisly for al Qaeda, which has typically resorted to small arms fire and ambushes against Yemeni soldiers.

The assault was not especially sophisticated in tactical terms, but the damages have nevertheless shaken Yemen’s fractured military to its core.  The exact details of the attack have been fluctuating over the past couple of days, but Yemeni military officials have reported that a band of Islamic militants from the southern city of Zinjibar snuck behind the army’s front lines when most of its soldiers were asleep in their tents. FULL POST

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Topics: Terrorism • Yemen
Zakaria: Could Middle East tensions boil over?
Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) take position in Idlib in northwestern Syria on February 22, 2012. (Getty Images)
February 24th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Zakaria: Could Middle East tensions boil over?

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The situation in Syria is spiraling downward. The country is inching towards full scale civil war. Violence is increasingly sustained and the Syrian regime seems unable to stop the opposition.

At the same time, we are watching an open Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran with Syria as the battle ground. The Saudi King publicly said (and, remember, the Saudis are very reluctant to say things publicly) to the Russian President that any dialogue with Syria is "futile" - that we  need to push the regime of Bashar al-Assad out. The Iranians, on the other side, are warning the outside world against intervening in Syria.

This is all a huge security boon for Israel. Iran - the country that Israel views as its principle threat in the region - is finding itself in a very weakened position because it chose to go all-in on Syria. Iran made the decision to simply to back the Syrian regime no matter what and now they're getting further and further isolated. The Russians have stopped publicly speaking out in favor of Syria. The Chinese have never been very vocal. And the Iraqis, who had initially taken a relatively supportive position, have retreated. FULL POST

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Topics: From Fareed • Iran • Middle East • Syria • Yemen
February 13th, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Al Qaeda's diplomatic corps?

Editor's Note: Daniel R. DePetris is a Senior Associate Editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Daniel R. DePetris.

By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN

On January 15, the residents of Radda - a small rural town 100 miles south of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a - were virtually in a state of siege.  The small shops and markets that kept the town’s life afloat were shut down, converted into makeshift military barricades by fighters associated with al Qaeda’s regional-based affiliate, who easily overtook the village from Yemen’s security forces.  The mosque - the center of activity in many small villages - became an al Qaeda headquarters, with the group’s black flag erected over the building in a demonstration of firm control.

The Yemeni Government, already fragmented and struggling to progress from the long era of Ali Abdullah Saleh, was powerless to stop the incursion.  The Yemeni military promised to assemble reinforcements to re-capture the town and push the al Qaeda militants out of the area, but the mobilization was far too slow for the people whose lives were darkly interrupted.  FULL POST

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Topics: Terrorism • Yemen
Say ‘No’ to President Saleh’s U.S. visa request
Yemeni president Saleh seeks U.S. entry.
December 30th, 2011
05:01 PM ET

Say ‘No’ to President Saleh’s U.S. visa request

Editor’s Note: Daniel R. DePetris is Senior Associate Editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis.

By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN

In a play out of the old American Civil Rights Movement, tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters from the embattled city of Taiz organized and set out en mass to demonstrate the epitome of non-violent civil disobedience.  The subject in question was the Gulf Arab initiative, an agreement forged by Yemen’s wealthier neighbors to ease Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office without inciting more turmoil and bloodshed.  The only problem, at least from the protesters’ viewpoint, is that the deal allows Saleh to skate on charges of murdering hundreds of fellow Yemenis over a nearly yearlong period.  FULL POST

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Topics: Yemen
December 27th, 2011
11:17 AM ET

Debate: Should Yemen's president be allowed into the U.S.?

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has decided "in principle" to allow Yemen's embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh to enter the United States for medical treatment.

Do you think Saleh should be allowed into the U.S.  Let us know through the (unscientific) poll below:

For more information on Yemen and the debate that raged in the White House, read on: FULL POST

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Topics: Debate • Yemen
Debate: Immunity or prosecution for rogue leaders?
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
November 25th, 2011
12:45 PM ET

Debate: Immunity or prosecution for rogue leaders?

Editor's Note: Alastair Smith is a professor of politics at NYU, and is co-author of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Alastair Smith.

By Alastair Smith – Special to CNN

Despite its good intentions, the International Criminal Court and other venues for prosecution of former leaders inhibits political reform. After 33 years in power, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen finally stepped down. His resignation follows ten months of protest, his severe injury in a mortar attack on the Presidential Palace in June and three abortive attempts to have him resign. The difference this time was that he was granted immunity from prosecution.

One of the major arguments for harsh punishments is their deterrent value. Unfortunately, in the international arena the threat of punishment has precisely the opposite effect. As long as they stay in power, leaders are immune from prosecution. The international community typically turns a blind eye to their actions under the guise of sovereignty. And even when they register their protest, there is little they can do against a sitting incumbent. Yet once deposed, the ire of domestic and international audiences is heaped upon former leaders. Given these incentives, it is small wonder that leaders take any and every gamble to stay in power. This might not be everyone’s idea of justice but there are undoubtedly numerous widows and orphans in Yemen who wish immunity had been granted 10 months ago.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Alastair Smith.

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Topics: Law • Yemen
The power of girls
The Nairobi slum of Kibera is a bad place to be a teen girl. But there is safety in numbers: These girls have started a 200-strong network of girls that protect each other from violence, HIV, pregnancy and prostitution. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
October 10th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

The power of girls

Editor's Note: Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation, works with key players in economic and social development to achieve the foundation's objective of contributing to poverty alleviation.

By Maria Eitel – Special to CNN

The Nobel Committee got it right when they awarded three incredible women the Nobel Peace Prize - H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman - "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work."

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize recognizes more than the winners themselves. It recognizes the powerful force for positive change locked within half of our population. The Nobel Committee is joining the growing movement that sees female participation and voice as not only as a human rights issue; it is an economic, social and political issue. As Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Nobel Committee, said, “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” Jagland said it beautifully. There’s one critical word missing: girls. FULL POST

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Topics: Africa • Aid • Women • Yemen • Youth
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